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State buzzing over 2 firms’ top 500 debut

Windstream, Hunt listings boost lineup to notable 6

Posted: May 12, 2013 at 2:59 a.m.

At Windstream Corp. of Little Rock, executives plan to strike a commemorative coin to mark the occasion.

At J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. of Lowell, Chief Executive Officer and President John Roberts describes his company as “very excited” at the news.

The new Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies by revenue, announced last week, has generated excitement among Arkansas businesses and business observers.

Two Arkansas-based companies climbed onto the list for the first time: Windstream Corp. at No. 414, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services at No. 486.

The 2013 rankings, based on 2012 revenue, also returned Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. of Bentonville to the top spot.

They all join three more Arkansas companies that have held places on the prestigious list for years: Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale at No. 93, Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado at No. 104 and Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock, No. 378.

That’s more than bragging rights for Arkansans, experts say.

Putting six Arkansas-based companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list translates into growing numbers of top-paying corporate jobs in the state, attracts national and international business and financial talent and brings a wide range of amenities from good restaurants to improved airline service.

And if six Fortune 500 companies led by No. 1 Wal-Mart is an impressive package, experts say, it’s especially so when funneled into a state that outranks just 18 others in population.

“It’s very significant,” Northwest Arkansas Council President and CEO Mike Malone said about Arkansas’ Fortune 500 list. “Arkansas has more Fortune 500 companies than 28 states.”

The council, which works with businesses and government to improve infrastructure and amenities in Northwest Arkansas, looks past a company’s revenues to more tangible benefits.

“We look at jobs and wages and investment and contributions these companies havemade to their communities,” Malone said.

Big companies’ civic involvement in Arkansas has included gifts that have captured national and international headlines, such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at Bentonville by the Walton family and Wal-Mart. And Murphy Oil created the El Dorado Promise in 2007 of fully paid college educations for students graduating from that city’s high school.

The new Fortune 500 rankings “were not startling by any means” to the state’s business insiders, but “are indicative that Arkansas has several fine companies. They’re more than regional players, they’re national players in their respective fields,” said Randy Zook, president and chief executive officer of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s what the numbers showed, and what company officials and business experts had to say last week as Arkansas companies climbed the Fortune 500 ladder. The rankings, published by Fortune magazine, list publicly traded companies and private companies whose revenues are publicly available. This year, a company had to show annual revenue of more than $4.8 billion to make the Fortune 500. NEWLY LISTED

Windstream Corp. executives had predicted their 7-year-old communications company would climb aboard the Fortune 500 this year. The company was listed at $6.2 billion in revenues.

Windstream, which offers phone, Internet and data storage services, separated from Alltel Corp. of Little Rock in 2006.

“The Fortune 500 in and of itself is a nice milestone for us to pause for a second … and say we’ve come a long way,” said David Works, chief human resources officer for the company. “We want to stay here for a while and we have a lot of plans for the future.”

“There has always been an aura around the Fortune 500,” Works added. “It resonates with people, including those who are not sophisticated about business.” A Fortune 500 listing “means that’sa big, stable company and all that goes with it.”

Windstream announced the ranking to employees and plans to distribute the commemorative coin. “It’s something to remind folks,” Works said. “It’s a cool thing to put on your desk.”

At J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Roberts said the Fortune 500 listing was a first for the longtime Lowell trucking firm. The company reported $5.1 billion in revenue.

“We are very excited to be included as a Fortune 500 company for 2013,” he said. “Over our history, we have demonstrated great adaptability to the changing environment of transportation and logistics services, which we plan to continue going forward. Our people are the very best in the industry and deserve to be included in this prestigious group of great companies.”FINISHING FIRST

Wal-Mart’s revenues hit $469.2 billion, according to this year’s Fortune 500. That topped Exxon Mobil, with $449.9 billion. The two companies have swapped the top spot four times since 2006. Wal-Mart was first in 2007-2008 and 2010-2011.

The rankings also show no one else comes close to the size of these two behemoths in revenues. Even the No. 3 Fortune 500 company, oil company Chevron Corp., listed revenues about half the size of Wal-Mart’s, at $233.9 billion. Only 21 of the 500 companies listed showed revenues of $100 billion or more.

Wal-Mart’s revenues have grown every year since at least 2006, when they were listed at $351.1 billion, Fortune 500 rankings show. The company has 2.2 million employees.

TWO MORE CLIMBED

Tyson and Dillard’s pushed up several rungs on the Fortune 500 ladder this year.

Tyson rose from No. 96 to 93, with $33.3 billion in revenue, up about $1 billion. Dillard’s marched from No. 383 to 378 with revenues of $6.8 billion, $400 million higher.

“We’ve been on the list for a long time and don’t do anything special when it’s announced each year,” Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said. “We’re grateful to be included in the Fortune 500 … There’s no doubt being part of the Fortune list brings prominence to our business and that prominence helps us to attract and retain talented people at all levels of our organization.”

Murphy Oil, like several other national oil companies, slipped on the list in part due to fluctuating oil prices. The El Dorado corporation went from No. 98 in 2012 to 104 this year, with $28.8 billion in revenue.

But the state chamber’s Zook expects Murphy and El Dorado to make big news later this year when Murphy Oil spins off Murphy USA, the company’s U.S. retail business.

Arkansas “will probably have a seventh company [on the Fortune 500] by the end of the year,” Zook said.

A Murphy Oil spokesman said the company is “pleased with its placement on the list of Fortune 500 companies this year.”

“This represents an important accomplishment [based on revenues] for a company of our size and market capitalization,” said spokesman Barry Jeffery.

SIX AND COUNTING

With six companies on the Fortune 500 this year, Arkansas noses out Nebraska, home offive Fortune 500 companies, including Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Arkansas also led more populous states such as Kentucky (with five Fortune 500 companies), Maryland (4), Oklahoma (4), Louisiana (3), Oregon (2) and South Carolina (1).

Twelve states don’t have a single company big enough to make the list: Alaska, both Dakotas, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS STILL LEADS

With the addition of J.B. Hunt Transport, Northwest Arkansas claims three companies on the list this year, including Wal-Mart and Tyson. The region stays ahead in numbers, barely, of Little Rock, which has Dillard’s and Windstream.

“Northwest Arkansas with three on the Fortune 500 list has as many or more than 23 states [including Washington],” Malone said.

Business, Pages 67 on 05/12/2013

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